Reading Beyond Health: Depathologization

Balanced stack of rocks

The Feminist Research Institute will host a Collaboratory throughout the year focused on this year’s annual theme “Beyond Health.” The Collaboratory brings together our Visiting Scholars and members of the UC Davis community to engage in timely conversations organized around keywords related to the theme.

Facilitated by FRI Visiting Scholar Chris Hanssmann, our November Beyond Health Scholars Collaboratory focused on the keyword “depathologization.” Participants read Alfonso Jarrín’s “Untranslatable Subjects: Travesti Access in Public Health Care in Brazil (2016) and Mia Mingus’ “Medical Industrial Complex” (2015) in advance, with Dr. Hanssmann’s thought-provoking questions as a guide:

  • How does the term “depathologization” resonate for you?  
  • How do notions of “medicalization” (in the sociological or popular sense) and “pathologization” relate?
  • How do these reading characterize medical power? What do they posit as modes of redress or relief? 
  • How do terms such as “pathologization” and “depathologization” engage transnational dynamics of power and action? 
  • In what ways might depathologization relate to feminist politics of care?

Jarrín’s work and Mingus’ work provided a useful opening for thinking through the tensions that de/pathologization elicits for minoritized communities, including transgender, queer, disabled, and racialized groups. Certain enactments of pathologization may operate as mechanisms of control, surveillance and stigmatization, at the same time that they may provide access pathways for medical care and legal recognition. Resources of all kinds are deeply embedded in pathologizing systems. How do we think beyond these systems while still ensuring that communities have access to critical resources to both survive and to thrive?

As Mingus asks, “[W]hat would true wellness and care look like for our communities?” We look forward to taking this up further in our next Collaboratory focused on the keyword “care.”

Additional suggestion readings on de/pathologization:

Also, check out these organizations working on issues pertaining to de/pathologization:

Mad in America

Disability Justice Culture Club

SisterSong

Elliott Fukui's "Mad Queer" resources

Fireweed Collective

Health Justice Commons

Do No Harm Coalition

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